In view of my involvement with the tracks topic that forms part of this review, I thought it worthwhile providing a summary of the what is involved. This is a rather wordier post than normal ones, but I hope it is informative. The Natural England website has even more detail!
The key point is that I am supporting phase one only, at this stage. This will be reviewing evidence not changing guidance or policy. Phase 2 might be more interesting to those involved directly in management issues.
Reasons for the review:
· An increase in scrutiny of the uplands - want to ensure stakeholder confidence
· To make sound evidence-based decisions
· Operate robust and transparent processes
· Ensure compliance with environmental standards
This phase reviews current evidence and evidence standards including:
· quality assurance;
· relevance of evidence and appropriateness of analysis;
· conclusions drawn;
· clarity of communications and consistency of advice to customers and stakeholders.
· Identify and consider all relevant evidence
· Identify gaps
· Consider the effect of defined activities
· Draw conclusions based on available evidence (including recommendations for future research)
It will not:
· consider other relevant information such as socio-economic factors
· recommend changes in management practices or operational guidance
Topics to be covered include:
· Effects of tracks/vehicles on soil structure and hydrology, and their effects on biodiversity.
· Effects of managed burning on peatland biodiversity and ecosystem services
· Appropriate management regimes for sustaining biodiversity and upland hay meadows.
· Determination of environmentally sustainable stocking regimes for moorland.
· Feasibility of restoring degraded blanket bog including areas such as drainage, vegetation cover (peat forming species) and climate change.
This phase has not yet been defined but will look at possible changes in advice provision for each of the topics,
Evidence Review groups
· will evaluate outputs from the evidence review, draw evidence conclusions, and summarise these.
· Each group includes two expert members on the topic being covered.
· Timing: 14 September – 5 October
Assurance Review group
· will comprise a chair and two independent specialists who will check the soundness of the topic reviews and their conclusions.
· The Group will report to the Natural England Science Advisory Committee (NESAC).
· Timing: 5 – 26 October
Stakeholder WorkshopsNatural England plans to hold a series of workshops to discuss initial findings for each topic in November 2012 and to publish a report in December.